50MPG? Banned in the US

How would you like to have a car which gets better than 50 miles per gallon? Such cars exist, and are actually rather common in Europe. Why aren’t they sold here? They are essentially illegal, thanks to some very tight regulation. They are diesels, and as such run in Europe on a fuel which by law includes 15% minimum biofuel, a renewable resource.

But efficient engines like this run at higher temperatures and pressures, meaning they essentially burn a little nitrogen and thus produce more Nitrous Oxide, or NOx.

This is at the heart of the infamous Volkswagen “cheating scandal”, which was indeed a terrible moment. But now that Chevrolet’s small diesels may be guilty of the same thing, it’s worth talking about.

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Screwing It All Up

The news is full of Trumpestuous nonsense. Denials of Russian involvement in our election devolved into a tweetstorm lasting for days, apparently without sleep, causing many to question his mental health and/or drug use. You can read about this nearly anywhere, so consider this the main attraction of the circus.

Away from the noise there is a lot more going on, of course. As we have said here before, the real stories will be away from the nonsense presented front and center. For all of our reasonable worries about his stability and allegiances, Trump poses a far greater danger to our nation.

Where we should reasonably be about to enter a great period of economic activity, it is still entirely possible to screw it up.

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Economy of People

It’s a bizzy return-to-work week, and I don’t know how to say this any better.  This post, from 2013, is presented just as it was because so much of it is relevant.  This was elaborated on at length in my discussion series People’s Economics in 2015, but this is the summary.  I still believe that this is what we should be talking about rather than the nonsense which passes for “politics” today – and that nearly everyone is utterly missing the ability to analyze what is happening around all of us in any useful way.

The economic teachings of Pope Francis are a hot topic. People feel a need to weigh in on what he said whether they understand it or not. But it’s the simple fact that so many don’t understand where this comes from that is probably the most important point in the public debate.

To sum it up: Money should work for people, and not the other way around. That shouldn’t be controversial, but having forgotten this way of looking at things is may be at the heart of economic and social cycles. The simple answer is that it’s time we remembered. More to the point, that philosophy is at the heart of American tradition going back to our earliest days.

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May You Live in Interesting Times

Years ago, Barataria predicted that 2017 would be “The Year Everything Changes”. The lesson is, of course, that we all need to be careful what we wish for.

The basic underlying forces which drove that prediction have not changed. The holiday shopping season has yet to be fully tabulated, but it appears that the robust 3.6% gain predicted was met or even matched, with one estimate showing a 4.9% gain. Baby Boomers will still hit retirement age and there will definitely be a shortage of workers coming up, especially in certain skilled areas.

For all that hope, the upside will be limited by an incoming Trump administration. It’s not just that they are largely tied to political views which do not fit the situation, it’s that many of them have little to no experience making policy. To a large extent, nothing will get done. But what does get done will happen among the bureaucracy. That may mean more change than we all think.

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How About That Economy?

With all the noise after the election, it’s been a while since we checked in on the state of the economy. There’s a reason for that. Will the election results change what has been a slow but steady march to a strong economy? Will 2017 still be the year when we look around and realize that everything has changed?

It seems that, so far, it’s all still marching along. There is a good chance that jobs and general growth will indeed strengthen, making Trump look like a genius. Last Friday’s employment situation survey showed that it is still moving forward – and combined with a strong holiday season there is at least some reason to cheer as a dreary 2016 starts to fade into what promises to be a crazy 2017.

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No Credit / Bad Credit

A lot is going on in my life.  I’ll explain later.  Meanwhile, this post from a year ago is becoming more important all the time.

If you’re like most people, you probably think that you can never have too much access to credit. After all, you never know what might go horribly wrong or when an opportunity to really follow your dream might come up. A little scratch ready in the background might be the difference between the good life and something much less.

Then again, a lot of credit has a corrosive effect. In a world saturated with borrowing everything is judged against the expected return if the money was simply loaned out at market rates. It seems reasonable that where a little credit is a good thing a lot of credit, defining everything in the world, is the biggest enemy of both long-term thinking and a society looking to maximize happiness and human potential.

Logic says that where a little credit is good a lot could be bad, meaning there is an optimal point. Where is that? Where are we with respect to a good level of credit? It turns out that train left the station a very long time ago – and this may explain a lot of the problems in this economy.

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2016 Holiday Shopping Forecast

It’s time for the Barataria annual Holiday Shopping Report! As we’ve done every year, the best information from those who analyze and predict the season ahead is put into one place. It’s a bit later than usual this year due to severe bizziness on my part, but it’s coming in ahead of the dreaded Black Friday.

Ready for a huge Christmas buying season? So are most retailers. But there are some important caveats.

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